Directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris

I attended the screening with my mother, yes mother! with mother. My mother and I see all sorts of films together. Several years ago it was her idea to see Killer Joe, a film she loved by the way. My only regret was that our seats were not farther back in the theatre. We were in the third row of the Princess of Wales Theatre, too close for this one, and I think we may have missed some details.

I would say I was definitely rocked by the film. It was much more of an experience than I was expecting, like a roller coaster ride versus sitting through a comprehensive story line. I should have checked my heart rate afterwards. It certainly made me think. It’s quite a visual spectacle and Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in it.

After the film, we sat in our seats through the credits and Patti Smith’s rendition of “It’s The End of The World” . We weren’t watching the credits, we were thinking and talking about the film. We weren’t the only ones. There were many others still sitting in the theatre trying to figure out what we just saw. The horrific scenes didn’t bother me per se as I knew when I was watching the film that it was more symbolic than actually occurring as presented on the screen. Don’t get me wrong, its whacky and riveting, hence the many wtfs you hear.

I am not going to share my thoughts, what I think it represents, or any spoilers here. That would spoil the experience for those who haven’t seen it yet.

I can appreciate that some might not have the patience for it and they may hate it. I realize that many film goers prefer to be spoon fed a story that makes complete sense. They crave the closure, the knowing, the understanding and a film like this might leave them feeling confused and undone. This is not a film for those people. This is an attempt at something different, something to wonder about. I commend Aronofsky for taking this leap. He is fortunate that he has the creative ability and the gumption to take the risk. Is he just throwing something nonsensical out there to get attention? I don’t think so. One could have said that about Jackson Pollock. Never mind, some people do…

This film is a polarizing one. I personally find it exciting to have a film to wonder and talk about. I cannot wait to see it again. This is precisely why I love film so much.

Good Favour

Directed by Rebecca Daly, starring Vincent Romeo, Lars Brygmann and Victoria Mayer

A young stranger, Tom, stumbles into a remote Christian village somewhere in the Netherlands. He’s injured, disoriented and helpless, so it seems. The kind folk take him in and treat him with kindness.

The villagers’ devotion to God and the Bible’s teachings is lead by a compassionate preacher. They are a community united in their strong beliefs and it is these beliefs lead them to connect Tom’s actions relating to a series of events as miraculous ability.

And so it goes.  Is Tom a charlatan or is he the second coming? You decide.

Decent movie, solid story telling and thought provoking, but a bit too sleepy for me.

Call Me By Your Name 

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg

I am not the only person to fall deeply in love with this film. It is a romance for anyone who has fallen in love, who remembers their first real deep love. It’s a romance for the ages. It is also coming of age film and very much a family film.

Timothee Chalamet delivers a genuinely perfect portrayal of Elio, a bright, confident and slightly cocky 17 year old with still so much to figure out. He spends his summers in Italy with his highly educated, liberal professor parents in a gorgeous estate in Northern Italy.  He speaks a number of languages and spends time reading and writing music as well as hanging out with other young people also visiting the Italian countryside for the summer. His world is shaken when Oliver, the handsome charismatic graduate student arrives. He is caught off guard and a little bit uncomfortable with his attraction to Oliver, but his desire to be near him and his curiousity take him on a journey we imagine he wasn’t expecting.

The two other films directed by Luca Guadagnino that I have seen, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash were very memorable, a bit quirky,  gorgeous, also set in the same region of northern Italy and starred Tilda Swinton.  This one was different. First of all, no Tilda. And while I enjoyed Luca’s other films, they always seemed a bit too glamorous, campy and perhaps a bit pretentious at times. This film was much more genuine and relatable.

Timothee Chalamet shines as Elio, and many critics are touting him for an Oscar nomination.  There are other great performances here as well. Michael Stuhlbarg, always solid, is absolutely perfect in the role of Elio’s father and Oliver’s mentor. There is one scene at the end of the film where he shares some fatherly advice with Elio and all parents should take good notes here. The scene made by heart swell…again…because my heart swelled a few times throughout the film.  Some folks have been critical of Armie Hammer’s casting, saying that it should have been played by a gay actor or that the subject of a 17 year old engaged in a relationship with a 24 year old crosses the line and somehow this translates to criticizing Armie Hammer. If I listed every straight role played by a gay actor, this piece would be pages long. I commend Armie for stretching outside of his comfort zone. I would actually like to see more straight men play gay parts as perhaps it would help dissolve some homophobia that exists in the world. Another thing that strikes me is that I never hear noise about straight women playing lesbians. As for the age discrepancy, certainly there a point where the gap becomes a concern, but in my opinion it is not 17 and 24. Funny, I bet a 17 year old female and 24 year old male in a relationship isn’t as difficult for people to get their heads around. Perhaps these are new double standards.

I really felt this film was tastefully done and the casting was spot on. The focus is the evolution of their beautiful love affair. As I said initially, this could be billed as a family film, maybe for families with teenage children, definitely one all parents should see. The gorgeous musical score, the cinematography, the setting, the screenplay, the performances, we are sure to see this one warm the hearts of the academy and receive several nominations. I have not felt so moved by a love story since the English Patient and I cannot wait to see it again.

TIFF 2017 Wrap Up 

What a crazy eleven days it has been. 30 movies later! The TIFF Gods were kind to us. The weather was stellar. I think it tried to rain once over the entire week and failed.  The elevators at Scotiabank held up under the strain. I am very proud of my city being able to pull off such an enormous festival fairly flawlessly. People genuinely seemed to enjoy being in Toronto for the festival. Idris said it best this week when he said TIFF stands for “Toronto is fucking fantastic!”, especially in September.

Here is the ranking of my 30 Films in the order in which they impressed me.  While I didn’t see any terrible films, I do have an excellent top 6 this year. The next 16 were great. And the last 8 were alright.

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
  2. Call Me By Your Name
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. First They Killed My Father
  5. Darkest Hour
  6. mother!
  7. Who We Are Now
  8. C’est La Vie
  9. Custody
  10. Angels Wear White
  11. Lady Bird
  12. Beast
  13. Unicorn Store
  14. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
  15. Death of Stalin
  16. The Rider
  17. Tulipani, Love, Honour and a Bicycle
  18. Woman Walks Ahead
  19. In The Fade
  20. Mary Shelley
  21. Kissing Candice
  22. Marrowbone
  23. Three Christs
  24. Mademoiselle Paradis
  25. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  26. Good Favour
  27. The Lodgers
  28. A Season in France
  29. Kings
  30. On Chesil Beach

What didn’t I see that I have added to my list based on what others loved?

      • Molly’s Game
      • I, Tonya
      • Battle of the Sexes
      • Foxtrot
      • Faces Places
      • The Florida Project
      • Sweet Country
      • 55 Steps
      • The Wife
      • The Leisure Seeker
      • The Disaster Artist
      • Killing of a Sacred Deer
      • Professor Marston & The Wonder Women
      • Loveless
      • The Current War
      • First Reformed
      • Les Affames
      • Bodied
      • Just Andre

      I spoke to Thom Powers on the street after my last film and commended him and the other programmers for an amazing selection of films. It was quality over quantity this year and this was a good thing. There is an audience for every film, and never is this more apparent than at the Toronto International Film Festival.

      Congratulations to the winners of this year’s awards!  

      IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film: Pre-Drink, directed by Marc-Antoine Lemire

      IWC Short Cuts Award for ​Best International Short Film: Min Börda (The Burden), directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr

      City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film: Luk’ Luk’l, directed by Wayne Wapeemukwa

      Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Les Affamés, directed by Robin Aubert

      The International Federation of Film Critics — Discovery prize: Ava, directed by Sadaf Foroughi

      The International Federation of Film Critics — Special Presentations: The Motive (El Autor), directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca

      NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere: The Great Buddha+, directed by Huang Hsin-Yao

      Toronto Platform Prize: Sweet Country, directed by Warwick Thornton

      Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award: Bodied, directed by Joseph Kahn

      Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award: Faces Places, directed by Agnès Varda

      Grolsch People’s Choice Award: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, directed by Martin McDonagh (Runner’s up Call Me By Your Name and I, Tonya) 

      Will be posting brief reviews over the next few days. Might take some time but I will get them all done.

      Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

      Directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Francis McDormand, Woody Harrilson, Sam Rockwell and Lucas Hedges

      Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri was probably one of my most anticipated films and it exceeded my expectations. It blew the bloody doors off, which is what I tweeted shortly after the screening. I had the good fortune of seeing the premiere screening at the Ryerson Theatre where it received a very exhubarant and well deserved standing ovation.

      The sharp script, with all the feels, is definitely McDonagh’s best. Sam Rockwell said during the Q&A that he often has to talk himself into taking a role, but in reading the script, with something happening on every page, it was what they refer to in the business as a “no brainer”. Francis McDormand joked ” You’re no Shakespeare, Martin” and he happily replied “Not yet” after which she started to stroke his arm.

      I actually think he is a Shakespeare for our time. This is a modern day tragedy, bold and brash with a huge heart. There is lots of humour, compassion, plenty of violence and lots and lots of anger, and swearing, lots of swearing.  Do I believe Shakespeare would have dropped F bombs in his dialogue if he was writing today? Abso-f-ing-lutely!

      In a nutshell, without spoilers, this is the tale of Mildred, a mother who has lost her daughter to a brutal rape and murder.  Many months later, the crime has no leads and the local police seemed to have filed the case away. Mildred has no patience for their apparent laziness and determined to shake things up, she shames the police department with three obnoxious billboards just outside the town. Lots follows, no spoilers here.

      The characters are layered, and while many are brash, they have a sense of humanity and vulnerability that evolves throughout the story. Francis McDormand’s Mildred is really angry and above all heart broken. She conveys a rawness that any parent can identify with, although we would hope to never want to find ourselves in her shoes.  Her performance is flawless and it might be her very best. Sam Rockwell plays the Sheriff’s unhinged racist deputy in what is absolutely his best performance to date.  If this doesn’t earn the man an Oscar, I am not sure what will. Woody Harreslon is his solid self as the no nonsense, charismatic Sherrif.

      I am very pleased that it won the People’s Choice Award in Toronto and is now destined to awards season for nominations in all major categories including screenplay, acting, cinematography, musical score and best picture.

      I look forward to watching this again when it is released in theatres.

      On Chesil Beach

      Directed by Dominic Cooke, starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle

      In 1962, particularly in England, sex was not something many people talked about openly. Hell today some people still don’t  want to talk about it.  But in 1962, around the onset of the sexual revolution, most people were not speaking openly about sex.

      This film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, takes us to the seaside resort where Florence and Edward have arrived for their honeymoon. We initially find them walking on the beach.  They are not so easy together, and at this point you know nothing about them so you would almost wonder if this was an arranged marriage.  But no, as we learn from flashbacks, they were genuinely in love. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds. Florence’s family is wealthy, poised and focused on keeping up appearances, while Edward’s father is a school teacher and his family struggles a bit given his mother suffered brain damage after a head injury.  Edward likes rock and roll music, while Florence, a violinist, prefers classical concertos.  They say opposites attract, but their differences will prove otherwise.

      A large part of the film centres on their wedding night, a most awkward attempt at intimacy and the heartbreaking result of their inability to share how they truly feel.  The film flips back to moments in their relationship before their wedding so that we can see they truly care for each other.  The frustration we feel as we watch and imagine how many couples would have gone through something like this, is what this film does so very well.

      The first 2/3rds of the film were incredible. Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle deliver spectacularly with this very delicate subject, doing justice to the very uncomfortable disappointment and heartbreak that ensues.

      Unfortunately the filmmaker Dominic Cooke, and screenwriter, Ian McEwan, decided to add material to the screenplay not originally in the novel. Fastforward to the future where older versions of Florence and Edward, who look like burn victims, enact a very tacky Hollywood ending that didn’t suit the first part of the film. If you watch the film, you can stop watching at the point where Edward tells his friends the story then fast forward to the final flashback on the beach.  You will know what I mean. Yes, there are parts where he looks like his been out in the sun too long, but this part of the film is ok for an ending.  Do not go any further. Thank me later.

      Grace Jones Bloodlight and Bami

      Documentary directed by Sophie Fiennes.

      Filmed over 10 years this documentary collaboration was well worth the wait. It’s a gritty, candid view of a woman who has until now been careful to present herself as a work of art. This film shows more of the inside of Grace Jones, beneath the veneer. She shared during the Q&A that she has always struggled with being a slave to vanity and that this documentary was an opportunity to show herself inside out vs outside in.

      Sophie Fiennes had met Grace over 10 year ago when she was filming a documentary about Grace’s brother, Bishop Noel Jones, called the Hoover Street Revival.  It was during this meeting that they hatched a plan to do this documentary. Apparently it was Grace who would call Sophie up periodically to invite her to film footage, for instance, at the Jones family reunion in Jamaica, in the studio and on tour and Sophie always had a bag packed ready for the call. There was talk of a follow up film because there is apparently a who lot more unused footage.

      The doc is a hodge podge of tour footage, Jamaica, studio rehearsals and more, but the songs that are selected for the film are personal ones. Will not spoil that element but the songs are part of the story telling. She’s had an interesting life.

      What I found most surprising about Miss Jones is that she is quite self deprecating and she has a dry raunchy sense of humour. Do not get the wrong idea, this woman is still bad ass, but she is a lot more human than the persona that has illuminated over the past 50 years.

      It was a real treat to attend the premier and hear Sophie and Grace speak after the film. No better way to kick off TIFF 2017!

      C’est La Cinema! TIFF 2017 is locked and loaded

      After hours of pouring through the films and fiddling with the TIFFr scheduler I narrowed my list down to 30 films I hope to see.  If you have not used the site to schedule your films, I highly recommend you try it out. It is incredibly helpful and very easy to use.  Without it, I would not have been able to cram this many films into my tight schedule.

      What am I seeing? 

      Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Call Me By Your Name, On Chesil Beach, The Death of Stalin, Mademoiselle Paradis, Who We Are Now, Beast, The Rider, Mary Shelley, The Shape of Water, Woman Walks Ahead, Unicorn Store, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Darkest Hour, First They Killed My Father, Tulipani Love and Honour, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, In The Fade, Kings, mother!, Marrowbone, Three Christs, Good Favour, The Lodgers, Kissing Candace, The Motive, Angels Wear White, Lady Bird, C’est La Vie, A Season in France

      Highlights : 13 films directed by women (highlighted), 15 world premiers, lots of UK films including one from Northern Ireland, French films, a Spanish Film, a Chinese Film,  an Italian film and some first features.

      What’s missing? Germany, the Middle East, India and South Korea.  I usually see a film from each of these countries but this year is dominated by the US and UK. I would have liked to have seen Lean on Pete, The Florida Project and Bodied, as well as a few more docs, but sadly I couldn’t make them work. 

      Which films top my list? That’s a hard one but certainly  Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Death of Stalin, The Shape of Water and The Motive are up there.

      Who am I excited about seeing? Grace Jones, Gary Oldman, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, and Peter Dinklage. 

      I am looking forward to 1o days of films, the buzz on King Street, and meeting up with film friends in line of course! 


      Haunting uncomfortable music starts the film and follows throughout, with the exception of excerpts from Camelot, in this sad and lonely widow's portrait. It is a film about Jackie, a First Lady with incredible dignity and poise, as she copes with the unspeakable tragedy.

      This is a very stylistic film, with beautiful sets and costume design befitting of this "royal" family. But these sets are stark, conveying a loneliness and isolation in the face of enormous public attention.

      I didn't realize that the Kennedys were the first to open the White House up to the public. The exposure and access they allowed in order to bring them closer to the American people was a first and the White House walk about interview Jackie did with CBS plays an important backdrop to the film. Jackie was happy, developing her role as First Lady, revamping the White House and showcasing America's history.

      The film moves very slowly, meandering, as if taking the sedated pace of the mind of someone who is suffering from terrible loss. She seems detached from the here and now, and at the same time fighting against pain to preserve her dignity and all that she and her husband had begun building for themselves as President and First Lady. She rambles quite a bit with her soft voice to the reporter who has come to interview her, often referring to the past beyond the event of his death as if to make sense about how she even ended up there. The reporter is not to share some of which she shares. In one instance she refers to their lack of intimacy in the bedroom and JFK's boorish behaviour with his buddies, but with a steadfast notion that deep down "he was a good man" that he always came home to "us".

      You walk with her as she wonders in her loneliness and in her attempt to figure out what she should do for Jack, but more importantly as the film progresses, what she must do for children and herself.

      While this slow paced film will not appeal to everyone, I appreciated this new perspective.

      City of Tiny Lights 

      Directed by Pete Travis, and starring Riz Ahmed, Billie Piper and Roshan Seth

      This British indie film premiered at TIFF last year but I was unable to make my schedule work to see it. I’d bought tickets and a good friend went in my place. She said it was great. I always wondered if she just said that to make me feel good. The reason I bought the tickets was because I am really enjoying Riz Ahmed lately, wanting to support his films, and Roshan Seth who plays his father in the film, well he’s solid in everything (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala to name a few). With it out on Netflix now, I finally took the time to watch it.

      Tommy Akhtar is a small time private eye living with his eccentric but ailing Dad in a row house in a working class neighbourhood of London. He’s approached by Melody, an attractive and seemingly successful prostitute of African decent, to look for her missing  Russian roommate Natasha who, you guessed it, is also a prostitute. One thing leads to another and Tommy finds the missing girl’s last client dead in a hotel room. The dead guy turns out to be the business partner of Tony’s friend from high school days, who is now a wealthy property developer. The dead guy was also donating money to the Islamic Youth Group in Tony’s neighbourhood. All roads leading to Tommy just seems a little too coincidental given the size of London, the number of people and what goes on in the city, but anyway.  That said, the story does a decent job weaving in the challenges of multi-culturalism, religious fanaticism and the gentrification of London’s working class neighbourhoods. There is also a tragic romance overlay plot that weaves throughout the film which some might find distracting, but I actually felt it added a layer of depth to the film that kept my interest. I never mind a little romance as long as its not too cheesy.  I will not go further about the story to spoil it for you.

      Easy viewing but nothing to write home about. A bit cliched and like a stretched out TV crime drama, or several episodes stuck together. Riz Ahmed and Roshan Seth did not disappoint and I would love to see them play father and son again. Maybe this could work as a TV show? No these guys are made for film.